Inside Kenya distance running training camp (photos)

Kenya Runners Training Camp
AP
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KAPTAGAT, Kenya (AP) — The hand-written roster — misspelled “rosta” — tells the runners when it’s their turn for communal chores. Stephen Kiprotich‘s name is on it. So is Eliud Kipchoge‘s.

At the Olympic Games, World Championships and the biggest marathons, both men are stars. But in the high-altitude training camp in western Kenya where they live like monks, they muck out shared toilets and do the washing up just like everyone else.

Kiprotich and Kipchoge are convinced their no-frills lifestyle is vital for their success. With their wealth, they could cover themselves with bling. Instead, they draw washing water from an outdoor well, drink milk from cows that graze the surrounding fields and share cramped bedrooms with other athletes.

On the wall above Kipchoge’s bed, the Olympic 5000m silver medalist in 2008 and bronze medalist in 2004 has hung a nugget of wisdom from Brazilian author Paulo Coelho — “If you want to be successful, you must respect one rule: Never lie to yourself.”

The winner of the London, Berlin and Chicago marathons is both philosophical and frustrated about the doping crisis corroding the hard-earned reputation of Kenyan running, with 38 athletes banned since the East African nation won 11 medals at the 2012 Games in London.

Kipchoge blames the short-sighted pursuit of money.

“People forget that money cannot be harvested,” he says. “If you want to harvest the money, you need to plant the seeds. And what are the seeds? The seeds are hard training.”

Ochre-red dust ferrets itself into the smile-lines on his face and clings to his eyelashes and hairs on his legs during a punishing training run through the forest that he and dozens of other athletes from separate training camps meet up for before dawn.

By training together, the runners spur each other on, Kipchoge says.

“I help them, they help me,” he says. “This is mutual interest.”

The jangle of a bicycle bell screwed to the wall in the dormitory corridor signals the 5 a.m. start of the day at the Global Sports camp that Kiprotich and Kipchoge share with about a dozen other runners from Kenya and abroad.

They eat breakfast together around a plain wooden table in the kitchen hut, washing down sliced white bread with tea from a giant aluminum kettle, drunk from plain enamel tin mugs. Water is boiled in a blackened, wood-fired stove. Washed plates, mugs and cutlery are left in the sun to dry.

The communal recreation room has a small TV, a rare concession to modernity, and also doubles as a storage area for sacks of grain. Runners get leg-rubs on a massage table in one corner. The athletes’ training programs, scribbled by hand on torn-off sheets of paper, are pinned to the wall by the door.

Abdi Nageeye, a Somali-born Dutch athlete, is training for the first time at the camp. He was initially shocked by the Spartan conditions and “really starving from hunger.” But he has come to understand how it allows stars like Kipchoge to shut themselves off from outside distractions.

“His friends, they always want something from him,” he says. “It’s better for him to escape to here, no one will disrupt him.”

Nageeye and Kiprotich both say it wouldn’t be possible for a runner at the camp to dope without others knowing, because they live in such close proximity and barge into each other’s rooms without knocking.

Kiprotich, the Olympic marathon champion in 2012 and World champion in 2013, says drug testers regularly visit the camp unannounced to collect samples. He says he doesn’t understand why any athlete would dope.

“It seems that the athletes who do that, they want to make a shortcut, they don’t want to follow a long route,” he says.

The camp, he adds, “is the long route.”

It has been the Ugandan’s training base for six years. He says he loses track of days that blend into a blur of training, chores, and down-time.

“We live like soldiers and the reason I say that is because we do all the work. When the cook is not around, we cook for ourselves. On top of that we do training, and training must continue. If it is your time to do such and such a job, you make sure you do it very fast.”

“Rule number one: all athletes are equal,” he explains. “It doesn’t matter if you are a champion or an Olympic champion or an upcoming athlete, we are all the same.”

MORE: Full NBC Olympic trials broadcast schedule

In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo Kenyan long-distance runner Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor checks messages on his phone as he receives an after-training massage at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo Kenyan long-distance runner Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor checks messages on his phone as he receives an after-training massage at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo winner of the London, Berlin and Chicago marathons Eliud Kipchoge, left, prepares to change clothes after his morning training run, in the small bedroom he shares with fellow runner Tareq Mubarak Taher, right, who represents Bahrain, at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo winner of the London, Berlin and Chicago marathons Eliud Kipchoge, left, prepares to change clothes after his morning training run, in the small bedroom he shares with fellow runner Tareq Mubarak Taher, right, who represents Bahrain, at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo sweat-soaked clothes are draped over bushes to dry in the sun, as runner Nicholas Rotich takes a rest after the morning training run, at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo sweat-soaked clothes are draped over bushes to dry in the sun, as runner Nicholas Rotich takes a rest after the morning training run, at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo a hand-written roster pinned to the wall tells runners when it’s their turn to do communal chores, at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo a hand-written roster pinned to the wall tells runners when it’s their turn to do communal chores, at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo winner of the London, Berlin and Chicago marathons Eliud Kipchoge, center right, stretches with other athletes after their morning training run in Kaptagat Forest in western Kenya. At a high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo winner of the London, Berlin and Chicago marathons Eliud Kipchoge, center right, stretches with other athletes after their morning training run in Kaptagat Forest in western Kenya. At a high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo winner of the London, Berlin and Chicago marathons Eliud Kipchoge, second right, trains with other athletes just after dawn in Kaptagat Forest in western Kenya. At a high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo winner of the London, Berlin and Chicago marathons Eliud Kipchoge, second right, trains with other athletes just after dawn in Kaptagat Forest in western Kenya. At a high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo a bicycle bell used to signal the athletes' 5 a.m. start of the day, hangs on the wall of the dormitory corridor at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo a bicycle bell used to signal the athletes’ 5 a.m. start of the day, hangs on the wall of the dormitory corridor at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
Getty
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Italian skier Elena Fanchini, whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won a silver medal in downhill at the 2005 World Championships and also won two World Cup races in her career — both in downhill.

She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

USA Boxing
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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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